I arrived in Bali during the high season July 2010. Together with my best friend Pam and her son, we rented a condo for a month on the border of Kuta and Seminyak, about 10 minutes by motorbike to the beach. The line up at immigration to obtain a Visa on Arrival was a three hour wait, after flying for nearly 24 hours, I could hardly stand, and was growing quite anxious about what awaited me on the other side of the security gate.
My friend had arrived a week prior to my landing, she was on a summer/work vacation and invited me along to begin my travels in a place equivalent to a soft landing (I say this because initially when I finally agreed to go traveling, I was heart set on India, my girlfriend cautioned me and made it clear that I'd be home in a week. I'm glad I took her advice). She had been to Bali before, and remembered it to be a gentle land, and partially English speaking if you stuck in the touristy areas.
Dashiel, her then 11 year old son, greeted me with a colorful sign bearing my name in crayons. I was exhausted but followed them with my backpack to the hired car, we drove down brightly lit streets, it was well into the evening, all was a blur, rather difficult to focus on anything, I desperately needed sleep.
The intention behind spending three weeks together was so that I'd learn how to travel alone, making my own arrangements, figuring out how I was going to survive on $9,000.00 Canadian dollars for the rest of my life, while having the support of my bestie to help me through any rough patches. As it turned out, she did all the planning, we had rented a car, there were sights to be seen and experiences for her son to be had. And I was terrified, a great match.
The end of July came quickly, and I had learned nothing, well maybe a few things. I had made a couple of connections, and we traveled to a little village to hang out with one of those "random not random" people to see how she lived. I was growing more and more scared, my lifeline was about to leave, and I would literally be all on my own, without a plan. Except, I knew one thing, that there was no way I was returning to Canada anytime soon, if at all. And that the universe was going to be my guide, and so I handed over the reigns and let go of worry.
Before Pam and Dashiel left, she made sure that she put together a budget for me. I didn't need one, I'd never been pragmatic my entire life, so why start now, because it made her feel better, so why not. I tried to reason with her though, I confidently said that I'd be okay, and please don't worry. She has always been a dear, loving friend, she tends to tell it like it is, without a cherry on top, Pam practically took me by the shoulders and tried shaking sense into me by stating that the universe is not going to give you a place to live and take care of you the way you think it will. I silently disagreed.
A fond and teary farewell, this time I was the one staying behind at the airport. We hugged and I cried, I had no idea when I'd ever see her again, this amazing beautiful woman who has always had my back. But it was her suggestion that I go traveling, I had to make her proud. "Bye guys, I'll see you on Skype".
The events that unfolded after their departure were nothing short of being miracles. After renewing my visa for another 30 days in Indonesia, I left Bali for a little place called Gili Air. Ah, peace at last! No cars or motorized vehicles, it was not commercial and had only a few Western style/operated restaurants. A tiny island, you could walk the entire thing by beach in about an hour. Finding a place to stay was tough, it was high season, every room was booked solid! I had not planned for that. But I kept my cool, after all I was a meditator now, and my mission was to spread peace, love and happiness, you can only do this if you embody it first. Again, surrender was key, and just before the sun dropped for the day, a young man approached me asking if I needed a room.
I jumped at the idea, it was a long day of travel, to get to the island you had to take a public ferry and another smaller boat. Once again I found myself exhausted, it was hot, I'd been up for hours. So how to get to this unknown accommodation that this smiling kid had offered, by bicycle! We are not talking about a rickshaw, he literally thrusted a child's bike at me, and offered to take my lightweight daypack while I rode with my huge turtleshell and shoeless through the sand. Hahaha, thanks universe, you're a real jokester sometimes. No complaints, I did it.
After three weeks of island life, sunsets and sundowners, meeting all kinds of people, hearing about their travels and adventures, there was a shift in our tribe, the girls I had connected with the most were ready to go. So now what? I guess I'll go back to Bali and see what's next.
In the process of selling everything I owned in Toronto, I met a guy who picked up a desk that I had sold to his friend. On his way out the door he stopped to ask me why I was selling everything. I told him my plan, that I was moving to Bali Indonesia to go meditate on the beach. He was surprised, and not because I was doing something insane, he told me that his former girlfriend had done exactly that only a few months prior, she left Toronto and she was now living in Bali. Thank goodness for Facebook, he connected us right away.
During the time that Pam was still around, I mentioned that we travelled to a little village to see how a new friend was living, this new friend was Kennen, and she was the former girlfriend. She and I met in Kuta on a "date" for a lack of a better term, about a week before Pam left. We hit it off right away, and the next day we drove her up to Balian beach. After spending a couple of nights there, Pam and I were in love with this secret spot, I said goodbye to Kennen, but with an added "I'll be back".
I was headed to Balian, without a plan, but open to whatever was on delivery. I got there and booked a room for a couple of nights at one of the few hotels near the ocean. I met up with my new friend daily, we talked all things Toronto and got to know each other better. A brilliant woman, with a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon and equally beautiful. During our conversations she kept mentioning some guy named Michael, until I finally spoke up and asked her who he was. She was shocked that I hadn't met him yet, and took me by the hand and walked me to a residence set back from the beach with an incredible view of the surf break that the secret village had been secretly known for by experienced surfers. Shhh! don't tell anyone that I wrote this, just kidding, years later it was exploited in a travel book and is now teeming with properties, hotels, restaurants and you guessed it, surfers.
There he was, this slightly tanned, bald headed, blue eyed guy in a swimming pool, swimming with his precious daughter. Kennen introduced us briefly and then departed, leaving me alone with this perfect stranger. I grabbed a seat on the concrete, and he spoke, "So Sara, what's your story?" I told him what I did, where I came from and that I had no plans or direction. His eyes grew wide, and a massive smile graced his face, he spoke again, but with excitement, "no way, you're from Toronto? I'm from Toronto!" and that was that, he practically adopted me. I met his sweetheart of a wife, their other child, and he gave me an apartment on his property, he offered me an opportunity I couldn't turn down, teach his child something, anything really, and my room/board was covered. He did have a swank house, and as it turns out, he was the owner of the most popular hotel there, it sat right in front of the surf, it served awesome food and drink, and was THE gathering place for anyone staying nearby or surfing. I was humbled and grateful.
For many months we all grew closer, I was like a celebrity there, people wondering how I was able to stay in Bali for as long as I had been there. I was living the dream. It did come with its own share of nightmares too, but I'll leave this segment on a high note.
During my time in Balian, I managed to go sit another 10-Day Vipassana Meditation course as taught by S. N. Goenka at a neighboring island Java. I'm so thankful for Michael and Komang, they allowed me to stay with them, treated me like family, took care of me, protected my belongings and set the tone for the remainder of my time in Indonesia. These people are salt of the earth, kind and generous. After 8 months, and the departure of this kind family back to Canada, I endeavored on. I still had a lot of savings since they took care of my needs, and a small part of me wanted to call Pam and give her a best friend "I told you so" but of course the story told itself.
It was time to move on, I was invited to stay at a luxurious guesthouse on a friends property down island. Another incredible opportunity that I'm deeply grateful for. Mary Joe, a bubbly, sweet, generous, American gal. She had been living the dream for years and we hit it off like sisters. I stayed with her and her pack of dogs for a few months, again I had an opportunity to leave my belongings behind and engage in more meditation, only this time I was to be on the other side of the cushion, I would be standing and assisting (serving) on a local course.
My spiritual path was unfolding, so many blessings and miracles, I was in the flow. I thanked MJ for the hospitality and finally moved out on my own. A tiny room in a local Balinese home, I was gifted a bicycle from Michael which served me well. I rode that thing like Forrest Gump ran across America. I was meeting people constantly, and settling into the reality that I was finally "Home". Life was sweet and getting sweeter by the minute.
My time in Bali was mainly spent on a meditation cushion, I was growing spiritually, learning new things. After serving on a course, I was then asked to put courses together. All of those years in an office was finally being put to noble use. I dove deeper into myself and into my practice. Hundreds of people were registering for these courses, we grew from one course every few years to five, they were multilingual, necessary, and they are still taking place in Bali today.
I was so full, I needed no one, all I wanted to do was to serve and sit on courses, and so I did. I was never lonely, I was thoroughly enjoying life and all of its possibilities. And then, Love walked in the door.
It was a bitter sweet departure from "The Island of the Gods", I left behind so many dear friends, hoping to see them again, but feeling so blessed to have known them at all. I'm still in touch with many of my soul sisters, brothers and dhamma family. I know I'll be back again, but until then, it is permanently etched in my soul.
Matur Suksma! Terima Kasih banyak! Thank You very much.